Lost Password?

A 12-Letter Word: 1 Secret to a Great Live Show

Demonstrating a trade offIt was years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday.

My experience that night gave me the best illustration of how a simple 12-letter word can be one of the secrets to a great live show!

CeCe Winans, best selling Gospel artist of all time and friend of Whitney Houston, was singing at a major music event.

As part of brother/sister duo, BeBe and CeCe, she’d already won lots of awards. But on this particular night, they were giving CeCe an award and acknowledging her debut as a solo artist with the release of her first solo recording.

The crowd — fans, managers, record execs, fellow performers, and more — were crammed into the hall, listening to the opening acts paying tribute to CeCe and her family, eagerly awaiting her appearance.

Finally the moment arrived, and CeCe stepped out on the stage. She received her award to a standing ovation, gave her thank you speech, and she attributed much of her success to her family. Her years spent singing with BeBe especially were acknowledged, and she mentioned he was unable to be there that night because he was finishing up a record producing project in Detroit.

Then CeCe went on to perform several of her solos for attentive listeners. They were already fans, so their response to her musical artistry was enthusiastic.

But the next song is what I will never forget! CeCe asked the crowd if they would like to hear one of her favorites — a song she usually sang with her brother BeBe. “Of course!” the crowd responded.

After singing the first verse as she normally did, CeCe got ready to sing the second verse (which her brother usually sang). But before she could start, the audience and CeCe heard BeBe’s voice from offstage starting his verse. She turned to see him walking toward her with surprise, shock, and delight — a big smile on her face and tears in her eyes!

As BeBe joined CeCe onstage, the show lifted to the next level. People stood up, screaming, crying, applauding… because of one thing — the obvious relationship between the two of them.

A Visual Relationship Between Performers is Essential

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched bands, duos, groups, any number of people onstage, completely ignore (visually) what someone else in their band is doing:

  • A front man sings a verse, then the lead guitar player and keyboardist come in with really cool harmonies on the chorus — but the lead singer doesn’t even glance at them, let alone establish a relationship with them visually.
  • A guitar player is out front putting pressure on the audience, when the bass player comes walking over to him. Instead of acknowledging him with a nod and moving to another spot on stage (or even better, acknowledging him, turning to face him, and then playing off of one another) — the guitar player completely ignores him.
  • Two instrumentalists do a trade off during a song, sharing musical phrases back and forth — but they don’t bother showing the audience visually that the music is building in intensity to a climactic payoff. (In fact, they often barely acknowledge the other player visually at all, let alone build intensity!)

Your audience needs to see relationships! It is one of those intangible elements of a show that needs to be cultivated. It has enormous potential for that emotional connection I always talk about.

Getting back to the story of CeCe and her brother BeBe… when BeBe came out onstage that night years ago, the song didn’t get any better. It was the same melody, the same words. The band didn’t get any tighter. Their playing was the same. The sound tech guys didn’t all of a sudden hear something that made them dial the sound in.

What happened was a relationship… an obvious emotional connection between two people onstage. And their audience was drawn into that moment.

Here’s the thing. It doesn’t have to happen by accident. (Who wants to rely on accidents anyway?) But it is a fundamental that can be rehearsed and developed for your live shows.

Establishing obvious visual relationships onstage with the other people in your band or group will draw your audience in and elevate your show to the next level!

Tom Jackson

Tom is uniquely talented and skilled at transforming an artist's live show into a magical experience for the audience; helping artists at every level create a live show that is engaging and memorable, teaching them to exceed their audiences' expectations and to create fans for life. Tom has taught indie and major artists of every genre. He has worked with Taylor Swift, Le Crae, Home Free, The Tenors, Shawn Mendes, The Band Perry, Francesca Battistelli, Jars of Clay, & many more. Tom also teaches at colleges, conferences and events worldwide.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:

Greenroom Comments

  1. Wow, what a great article, thank you so much for sharing this Tom! I’ve forwarded this link on to all my band members, AWESOME!!!

  2. Many years ago, when I was coaching a teen group, I tried to get this across to them – that if they looked like they were having a good time together on stage, the audience would have a good time too. But the “standard” for “cool” in 1998 was for the musicians to stare openmouthed at the floor in front of them as though they could care less about the folks onstage, much less the audience. Eye contact with the audience or each other would have been “breaking character.” Thank goodness most musicians have gotten past that “too cool for the room” stage. But that doesn’t keep a lot of folks from being oblivious, not only to the audience, but also to each other. Is it too much to ask for the rest of the band to turn and watch each other once in a while. How can we expect the audience to appreciate solos, etc., if we’re not paying attention either?

    Thanks for posting, this, Tom.

    Recommended to my readers at


  3. Great reminder for us all!

Step Up To The Microphone & Leave a Comment